One of the big day trip attractions in Sydney are the Blue Mountains. I have been wanting to go all semester, but the timing hadn’t worked out when other people had been going. This week apartment 18 lost an inhabitant, Jonathan, Kaela’s boyfriend, and gained another, Shelby, Kaela’s friend from California. Having guests in the apartment has been great because it has forced all of us out of our studying and staying in and back out into Sydney. The first two weeks in June were cold and rainy and we thought for sure we were in for quite a miserable Southern Hemisphere winter, but when Shelby arrived she brought the California sunshine with her and it has been beautiful for the last week. Since the weather has been favorable and Jill and Kaela both finished with all their finals and classes we decided that on Monday we would take the two hour train ride from Sydney to Katoomba to spend the day in the Blue Mountains.
Katoomba is the biggest town in the Blue Mountains with a population of 7,600. It is a quaint and quiet little mountain town filled with antique shops, small cafes, and a steady stream of hikers, tourists, and backpackers who come from all over the east coast of Australia to see the Mountains. The main attraction that draws people to Katoomba is a rock formation known as the Three Sisters, viewable from Echo point about two km south of the main town. This rock formation is of great significance to the Aboriginal people of Australia, the legend of how this formation came to be (as copy and pasted from a website on Aboriginals stories) goes thusly:
“In Gondwana, there lived Tyawan of the Gundungurra people. He had three daughters, Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. In the valley there lived a Bunyip, an evil creature who feasted on human flesh, particularly that of young girls and women. Its cry was harsh and horrible and if you heard it, the only safe thing to do was run away as quickly as possible. When Tyawan had to pass the hole, he would leave his daughters safely on the cliff above behind a rocky wall – just in case.
One day he descended the cliff steps down towards the path near the Bunyip’s hole and left his daughters chatting on top of the cliff. While they were waiting, a huge centipede suddenly appeared. Startled, Meenhi picked up a stone and threw it at the centipede.
The stone missed the centipede, but rolled over the edge of the cliff and crashed into the valley below. The sound echoed all around the mountains. Suddenly the rocks behind the sisters shook and split open, leaving them perched together on a thin ledge. The Bunyip, angry at being awakened, dragged himself through the split to see the sisters cowering on the ledge. His evil eyes widened in delight at the feast before him. Tyawan looked up and saw the Bunyip reaching for his daughters, so he pointed his magic bone at the girls and immediately turned them to stone. They would be safe there until the Bunyip had gone and then Tyawan would change them back.
But the Bunyip, angered at being deprived of his prey, chased Tyawan through the forest and up a mountain where he found himself trapped. So Tyawan used his magic bone again and changed himself into a Lyre Bird and glided away. But then, in dismay, Tyawan realised that he had dropped his bone whilst changing. After the Bunyip had gone back to his dark pool, Tyawan glided down to the forest floor and to search for his magic bone … he is still searching. The Three Sisters stand silently watching him from their ledge, hoping and hoping that one day their father will find his magic bone and be able turn them back to Aboriginal girls.”
We arrived in Katoomba around noon and after getting off the train popped into a little cafe to take stock of the town and decide what our plan of attack would be for the day. While we wanted to see the Three Sisters, the local geography includes extensive areas of dense sub-tropical rainforest and a series of waterfalls, so we had no qualms about hiking and taking our sweet time getting there while enjoying the scenery. We decided we would buy a hop on/hop off trolley ticket for $20 so we could hike when we wanted to and then get a ride when we got tired. From Katoomba we took the trolley about fifteen minutes out of town to where most of the trails begin, hopped off and started walking.
We were walked lush rainforest-esk type foliage and every so often would emerge at a lookout point and be completely awe-struck by the majestic views we encountered.
The area surrounding the blue mountains is also known for its natural waterfalls, of which there are a few. The main vegetation of the region are eucalyptus trees which are only found in Australia, but they are here in abundance. Heath-like vegetation is present on plateau edges above cliffs. The sheltered gorges contain temperate rainforest type vegetation, hanging swamps with button grass reeds and thick, deep black soil. Although it was very muddy at times, it was incredible.
We hiked for about three hours hitting every lookout point and waterfall along the way before deciding that we would catch the trolly to Echo Point where we could see the Three Sisters.
By the time we reached Echo Point it was around 4 pm and the sun was beginning to set and the temperature was starting to drop. After spending a few minutes hanging out and snapping pictures we headed into a mall type area to snack on some of the food we had brought with us. In taking stock of what we had already done we decided that we wanted to see Katoomba falls before we left for the day, so after we had finished eating we went back outside to catch the express trolley that we thought would take us there. Upon boarding we asked the driver about the falls, and he gave us some generic answer about the falls being nice and we assumed this meant that his route would get us there. The bus instead took us on a ten minute loop of the small surrounding suburb before putting us right back in front of the mall at Echo point. Confused, we asked the driver if the bus went anywhere else, he laughed and told us that yes he went into town if that is where we were headed. We thought by “town” he meant the falls, since this is what we had previously discussed, but again, we were wrong and we ended up back at the main bus terminal where we had purchased our trolley tickets earlier that day. This was a rather abrupt end to our day, but we all agreed that since it was getting colder and darker out that it was probably best to call it a day.
We wandered around the tiny town of Katoomba for a while, popping in and out of vintage emporiums and second hand clothing stores. Kaela and Jill both found some antique and vintage items to purchase.
By the time we were ready to board the train back to Sydney it was getting quite dark. Exhausted, but having had a wonderful day we all laughed, chatted and giggled our way back into the city.
All credit for the stunning mountain photography in this entry goes to my adorable shutter bug roommate: Kaela Brinkman.